Thursday, December 08, 2016

Proposed UFT Voucher Resolution Applies to Charters Too

On Monday at the Executive Board I looked at the voucher resolution (click on it below to enlarge it if you'd like to read) and knew that something was wrong. Aren't vouchers even worse than the resolution says it is? I've sent out feelers and am looking to find something concrete with which to amend it. I haven't yet, and if any reader knows something I don't, please feel free to make a suggestion.

Nonetheless, after I read it a few times, I noticed a disturbing pattern. The resolution states that voucher programs grow "to the detriment of public schools," and of course that's correct. It's also correct that public schools provide fewer services when they have fewer resources.

How is that any different from what charter schools do, particularly when they "colocate" with existing schools? Haven't we seen a mass exodus of school libraries as we make way for Eva Moskowitz and her chain of charters? Even as my school is starved for space, others with available space lose it as charters relentlessly expand.

The resolution continues, stating that underfunded public schools are unable to attract and retain good teachers. That's true, of course. But don't charter schools also suck funding from public schools? Wouldn't troubled schools recuperate more easily if large swaths of their neighborhood kids were not sucked out via massive advertising campaigns by charter schools?

The resolution then calls vouchers, "thinly-veiled privatization schemes." I don't object to that per se, except I'd argue that vouchers are not veiled at all, thinly or otherwisely. Vouchers take money from public schools and send ot to private schools. That's it. If we want to go with "thinly-veiled," that road leads us, yet again, to charter schools.

Charters claim to be public some of the time, but don't want to be subject to the same regulations as we are. They don't want to take the same kids we do, and if they don't like the ones they get, they toss them to the street (or more accurately, to the public schools which are then vilified for their test scores). Then they can make preposterous claims about 100% of their kids going to college, or something, after they've tossed the rest. Above you see Eva Moskowitz, livid at being asked to follow the same regulations every pre-K in the city did. No stinking rules for Eva, thank you very much.

Then the resolution says voucher schools pick and choose their students. Actually I have no experience with voucher schools so I can't speak to that. I suppose private schools, being private, take who they please. But we all know that charters pick by lottery, and that it takes a proactive parent to bother to enter one. We know that charters can require parents to spend hours working at the charter. We know that Eva Moskowitz might pick a day and drag the parents to Albany, along with the hapless kids. We know that she makes the kids do work on the bus, just to ensure this is the Most Miserable Field Trip Ever.

So while I haven't yet found good enough info to improve the voucher resolution, I have to ask, given the language in the resolution, why the hell do we support charter schools? It's one thing for us to talk about what Al Shanker envisioned. It's one thing to support the few that actually accomplish whatever that is.

But it's quite another to pretend that the charter movement, as advanced by wealthy, profit-crazed privatizers like Besty DeVos, is not geared toward privatizing, and the next best thing for them as they were unable to get communities to pass vouchers. DeVos tried twice in Michigan, was rebuffed, and now wants to do away with all that messy democratic election nonsense. After all, she and Trump are in the driver's seat after having lost in the general by 2.6 million votes and counting.

It's pretty ironic that we in UFT are pushing a resolution that condemns vouchers for a whole lot of things charters do as a matter of course. I wonder if the folks on the 14th floor can see it. It's hard to say. Personally, I've never been up there and can't be sure they allow irony on that floor.  It would be a welcome addition, though. Seeing irony helps to accentuate the import of what otherwise appears to be mundane reality.

Given that the idealistic charters envisioned by Shanker are the exception rather than the rule, wouldn't we be more credible if we simply opposed charters altogether? Wouldn't we be more credible if we hadn't supported the neoliberal Democratic agenda that hurt education just a little bit less than Trump and his flying monkeys want to do? Is it finally time to stop rationalizing the nonsense we've been enduring all these years and take a stand, even if it offends the faux-Democrats who enable such things as Moskowitzes?

Inquiring minds want to know. 

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